ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak indicated Friday that Lance Lynn's next start could be his last opportunity to prove he deserves to remain in the rotation for the remainder of the season.
And while manager Mike Matheny stopped short of labeling Wednesday's start as Lynn's last chance, he echoed Mozeliak's comments Saturday, emphasizing the importance of getting Lynn's recent struggles sorted out.
"We're not trying to play mental games with any of these guys or trying to push them any more than we always do," Matheny said. "Right now we're in a spot where we'll just be brutally honest. This is where we are, this is where we think you are and this is what our club needs. Those are the kinds of conversations we had."
Lynn is winless in his last six starts and hasn't given up fewer than four earned runs in his last five outings, three of them lasting fewer than six innings. Although an 18-win season and an All-Star appearance in 2012 have raised expectations for the right-hander, Matheny cautioned not to forget that Lynn is still just 26 years old.
"The guy won 18 games last year, but that was his first full season. He's still a young pitcher," Matheny said. "He's got a lot of room for improvement. He's really working hard, too. He's trying to do the things that he thinks he's missing. We're trying to help him along that road; it's just been a tough road."
If Lynn can return to form -- he started the season 10-1 in his first 15 starts -- it will go a long way toward improving the Cardinals' odds in October.
"We know we're going to be a better team if Lance is right," Matheny said. "It all comes down to production, that's the bottom line. Are you getting the job done or aren't you? They know that. There can be different root causes to the struggles that your guys have, you just kind of try to address them and then you hope to see some improvement."
Wainwright moves to No. 2 on Cardinals' K's list
ST. LOUIS --With his first strikeout in Saturday's 5-0 win over the Pirates, Adam Wainwright passed Dizzy Dean (1,095) for second on the Cardinals' all-time strikeout list with 1,096. He finished with eight to push his career total to 1,103.
The Cardinals' ace still has a long ways to go to catch franchise leader Bob Gibson, who fanned 3,117 through 528 career games with St. Louis.
Wainwright moved past Chris Carpenter for third on Aug. 23 with his 1,090th strikeout. Back-to-back poor outings versus the Reds, in which he surrendered 17 hits and 15 runs with just five strikeouts, delayed his rise to second until Saturday. He limited the Bucs to two hits and two walks over seven shutout innings.
"Today I wanted to go out and repeat my delivery and execute pitches," Wainwright said. "Directionally I was a little off the last few starts, and today everything was working toward the catcher, not horizontally. Everything was going straight toward the catcher. I think my stuff was drastically different because of that."
Wainwright finished Saturday ranked second in the National League in strikeouts (195), trailing only the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (201).
Matheny relates to Kozma's struggles with bat
ST. LOUIS -- With a bunt single Friday night, Pete Kozma snapped an 0-for-33 skid that had him without a hit since Aug. 11, a struggle Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny is no stranger to himself.
"I've been there," said Matheny, a career .239 hitter. "It's tough to weather."
Matheny recalled starting a year in the Minors with an 0-for-32 stretch as he experimented with switch-hitting. A scout had seen him switch-hit in high school and suggested the right-handed hitter try it out just a few days before the season started.
Unfortunately for Matheny, the left-handed outs were few enough that they didn't offer an acceptable excuse for the extended slump.
"Not enough of them to really feel good about myself," Matheny deadpanned. "I was no longer a switch-hitter from then on."
Kozma started Saturday versus the Pirates, but has bounced in and out of the lineup as he shares duties at short with Daniel Descalso, making it difficult to find his rhythm at the plate. The Cardinals have often opted to keep Descalso's bat in the lineup over Kozma, who is known more for his defense than his offensive prowess.
"It's a challenge for everybody, but that's my role now. I gotta come off the bench and just do what I can," Kozma said. ""When you're not getting results it's always frustrating."
Since Aug. 23, the time share at shortstop has shifted in favor of Descalso, who has made 10 starts to Kozma's three. Despite the diminished role, Kozma insists he doesn't view the platoon at shortstop as a competition for playing time.
"We're on the same team, so it's definitely not a competition," Kozma said. "The competition is in the other locker room."
Peterson gets second career start with Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Brock Peterson has played in 1,206 professional baseball games. Until Saturday, only one of those had been a Major League start.
Peterson was in the lineup at first base for the Cardinals against the Pirates on Saturday, making his second big league start. After 10 years in the Minors, Peterson has earned an opportunity to show what he can do in the Majors.
Although the production has yet to follow him to St. Louis, the 29-year-old infielder batted .296 with Triple-A Memphis this season.
"I know it's exciting for him to get in there and see what it feels like out there at first base," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he's got the potential to help us out offensively, too. He hasn't done a lot to really show anybody here, but you don't put up the kind of numbers that he did in Memphis without having a really good approach."
With Allen Craig out indefinitely with a sprained left foot and Matt Adams' .195 average versus lefties, Matheny thought Saturday against lefty Jeff Locke provided an opportunity to get Peterson some consistent at-bats. The Cardinals are hoping Peterson can provide a spark for a club hitting .237 against left-handers heading into Saturday's game.
"It's no secret that we're trying to figure out how we can have a more consistent offense against left-handed pitching," Matheny said. "This guy's got some ability to be able to help us out, so we're going to throw him in there, give him a chance."
• The State College Spikes, the Cardinals' short-season Class A affiliate, fell to the Jamestown Jammers, 6-5, Friday in Game 1 of the New York-Penn League Semifinal Series. The Spikes nearly came back from an early 6-0 deficit by scoring five runs in the sixth, but Jamestown hung on for the victory. Game 2 of the best-of-three series was scheduled for Saturday night in State College.
• Matt Carpenter hit his team-leading seventh triple Friday, his second in as many nights. The last Cardinal to triple in three straight games was Luis Alicea in 1992. In addition to tying Albert Pujols for the Busch Stadium III single-season hit record at 98, Carpenter is also three doubles shy of the ballpark record of 29, set by Scott Rolen in 2006.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.